The picture of God as a shepherd is a familiar one in the pages of scripture. The prophet Isaiah said of God, “He will feed his flock like a shepherd. He will carry the lambs in his arms, holding them close to his heart. He will gently lead the mother sheep with their young” (Isaiah 40:11 NLT).
Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep” (John 10:11 NKJV). And the apostle Peter wrote, “For you were like sheep going astray, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls” (1 Peter 2:25 NKJV).
Isaiah also said, “All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s paths to follow our own” (53:6 NLT).
We love the picture of God as a shepherd. We like the idea of being sheep. We imagine a peaceful pastoral scene of a shepherd keeping watch over his flock. What a beautiful picture of humanity.
In reality, being compared to sheep isn’t something we should feel good about. The Bible likens us to sheep for a simple reason: sheep are incredibly stupid and need constant care. They tend to wander and get into trouble. They are vulnerable and defenseless animals that require more attention than any other kind of livestock.
Roles of the Sheep and Shepherd
In his book “A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23,” W. Philip Keller, who was a shepherd for a time, pointed out, “Because of their very makeup, it is almost impossible for [sheep] to be made to lie down unless four requirements are met… There must be a definite sense of freedom from fear, tension, aggravations, and hunger.”
Keller goes on to say that it is only the shepherd who can provide the very relief from these anxieties.
After all, who can forget David’s words in Psalm 23, when he compares his relationship to God to that of a shepherd and a sheep? He said, “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul” (verses 1–3 NKJV).
Only the person who says, “The Lord is my shepherd” can then say, “I shall not want.” When the Lord is not your shepherd, you always will want something. It isn’t wrong to want certain things in life, but the reason we want that something or someone is because we are trying to fill a void inside that God wants to fill.
Yet our natural tendency, like sheep, is to go astray.
In Luke 15, Jesus tells a parable in which He portrays God as a shepherd seeking a lost sheep. He said, “If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them gets lost, what will he do? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others in the wilderness and go to search for the one that is lost until he finds it? And when he has found it, he will joyfully carry it home on his shoulders” (verses 4–5 NLT).
This is clearly a picture of God, our good shepherd, searching for us. Our natural tendency, like sheep, is to go astray. And despite our shepherd’s constant, loving, compassionate care, we wander around because we think the grass is always greener somewhere else.
Even when we go astray, what does our shepherd do? He goes after us until He finds us. Once He has forgiven you, even if you go astray, He won’t let you go. He will go after you, calling you back to repentance.
It would have made sense if Jesus had said, “And when he has found the sheep, he drags it back, swatting it with his rod.”
Instead, Jesus said the shepherd “will joyfully carry it home on his shoulders.” That is a picture of affection. The shepherd brings back the tired, worn out, malnourished, and thirsty sheep.
This is a beautiful picture of God carrying us, even when we have fallen. David wrote, “Save your people! Bless Israel, your special possession. Lead them like a shepherd, and carry them in your arms forever” (Psalm 28:9 NLT).
The Lord has promised not only to do this in your youth, but also to the end of your life. He said, “I will be your God throughout your lifetime – until your hair is white with age. I made you, and I will care for you. I will carry you along and save you” (Isaiah 46:4 NLT).
Jesus concluded his parable by saying, “There is more joy in heaven over one lost sinner who repents and returns to God than over ninety-nine others who are righteous and haven’t strayed away!” (Luke 15:7 NLT).
Notice that Jesus said, “one lost sinner.” One person is important to God. And it brings joy to Him when a lost person comes to repentance.
The Meaning of Repentance
The word “repent” means more than merely regretting something or being sorry for it. The kind of sorrow that a lot of people feel over their sin is sadness over the consequences of what they’ve done wrong. But when those consequences are gone, they’ll go back and do it again.
That is not the kind of sorrow we need. We need the kind of sorrow that the Bible says will lead us to repentance. If our hearts are broken, then our behavior will be broken.
I think there are a lot of people going to church today who think they are Christians, but they have never repented. They are still doing things they are not supposed to be doing. They haven’t brought forth fruits in keeping with repentance, which the Bible says that we should have.
Do you have that fruit in your life? Have you truly repented of your sin?
Maybe you’ve been like the wandering sheep in the parable that Jesus told. You’ve been looking for fulfillment. But until you say, “The Lord is my shepherd,” you never will say, “I shall not want.”
There is nothing this world offers that will satisfy that deep void inside—nothing, that is, except a relationship with God through Jesus Christ.
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Originally published at WND.com
Used with permission from Greg Laurie.